Faceoff: Cyberduck vs. FileZilla

Cyberduck FileZilla Almost a year ago, I began to write a review of FileZilla, an open source FTP program that appeared to hold promise as a contender for inclusion in the thriftmac collection. Cyberduck has long been the freeware FTP app of choice here, with OneButton FTP a distant but worthy second.

I didn’t get far with the review because I couldn’t get FileZilla to launch, and the sheer ugliness of it made this a relief. In the interim, though, FileZilla has been updated on a regular basis, so I decided to give it another chance.

Lo and behold: not only did it launch — it launched fast. But could it possibly unseat my old favourite, Cyberduck. Read on for a blow-by-blow comparison between Cyberduck 3.0.2 and FileZilla to see who wins.

Launch: both launch almost immediately. Cyberduck used to take a few seconds, but with the latest version is a lot speedier. I have a feeling, though, that it may start to bog down again over time.

Interface overview: FileZilla has four panes. Two on the left represent local files on your hard drive. Two the right represent remote files on a server. The top pane on each side is meant to help you navigate through folders and see what’s inside them as represented by the lower pane. I’ve never seen anything quite like it before in a Mac program, and found it confusing and non-intuitive. Cyberduck has just one pane, which lists the files in a remote server. You double-click on folders to open them as you would in the Finder. There is no pane for local files as there is in FileZilla and other FTP programs such as Transmit, but it’s easy enough to view them in the Finder and drag-and-drop from there.

Toolbar: Cyberduck has only a few icons and it is easy to understand what they do. A customization option allows you to add more. FileZilla’s toolbar is cluttered by comparison, and the icons are both ugly and indecipherable. Below is an example of two particularly bizarre FileZilla icons. Fortunately, tooltips show up when you hover over them.

FileZilla toolbar icons

Connections: Both have a Quick Connection dropdown menu that you can fill with frequently visited sites. Cyberduck also has a collection of bookmarks available at the click of a button. I couldn’t find anything comparable in FileZilla.

Speed: Connecting to the SFTP server used for the thriftmac website took only a couple of seconds with either app. Uploading a 652 KB JPEG took about 40 seconds in both cases.

Ease of use: I’m certain there must be a way to delete remote files, but I couldn’t find it with FileZilla. I checked the sparse documentation and the FAQ at the FileZilla website — nothing. I did a search on “delete” at the forums — nada. I was too embarrassed to actually pose the question. Likely I’ll be embarrassed anyway with a comment below starting with, “Well, all you have to do is . . .” The point, though, is that something so basic should be a snap to figure out.

Advantages to FileZilla: I’ve read reports of FileZilla being faster and more stable. But in my admittedly simple tests I could see no appreciable difference in speed. I’ve used Cyberduck for a few years now, and have never known it to crash or quit in the middle of a transfer — although that doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened to other people. You may prefer having local and remote files in one window as it can be a nuisance sometimes to navigate to the local files you want in the Finder. But if this is the case, you might be better off splurging for Transmit or Yummy FTP.

Advantages to Cyberduck: Cyberduck is easier to use, has a polished interface and fits in nicely with the Mac experience. Unless you have specialized needs or strongly held preferences, you’re best avoiding FileZilla and sticking with Cyberduck.

The winner: Cyberduck wins. FileZilla can be a struggle to use at times, but it does indeed work as advertised and so has earned a place in the thriftmac collection.


9 Yes 2 No

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  1. Well, all you have to do is right click the file and click “Delete” in the context menu, or click the file and then press “Delete” on the keyboard.

    I admit these are only guesses, but I just had to use that opening line.

  2. I am a long user of Cyberduck… it crashes constantly. However, the UI is really straight-forward and the app plays like a real mac app which is great. I always used Filezilla on Windows computers (almost never these last couple years). Cyberduck and Filezilla are both favorites of mine… it’s a really close race at the moment.

  3. It’s weird that it crashes so much for you. I’ve never had this problem, but maybe it’s because my needs are simple: mostly text and the occasional JPEG or PNG.

  4. I don’t want to accuse, but as a reader, one gets the impression that your dislike of the UI clouded your review of the other aspects of Filezilla.

    I also noticed that you failed to mention several points that even your own readers notified you of in your previous so-called review". (continued due to length limitation of comments..)

    dave Johnson
  5. It’s true that I didn’t like the UI, but other than that I would put FileZilla more or less on a par with Cyberduck. To me, looks are important, but even aside from that, I find the interface confusing and not in keeping with what you’d expect from a Mac app.

  6. I downloaded Filezilla a few days ago to my recently acquired Mac laptop (OS version 10.5.2) and am also wrestling with deleting remote files. You can’t rightclick anything on this keyboard as the mousepad has only one button. Highlighting the file and hitting the delete button doesn’t work either. Any insight would be appreciated.

  7. Control-click works for me.

  8. What you do is click on the offending file, then hit the delete key… That’s all there is to it.

  9. Most Macs don’t seem to have a delete button! Oops for the superior UI eh?

  10. Generally fn+delete is the delete key (works on my MacBook). Also, 2 fingers on the trackpad when you click works as a right-click.

  11. I have been using CyberDuck for a long time, until the other day when it crashed at work and I couldn’t upload anything, since I was in a hurry to upload files before work ended, I sought out another option, I discovered Filezilla, which at first opening looked confusing but once getting used to a new interface, fell in love with the speed of uploads and also the ability to view/edit in Dreamweaver and then after saving all you have to do in filezilla is say yes to an overwrite… with that feature and the quickness compared to cyberduck, did it for me, I loaded the shotgun and alas no more cyberduck…

  12. Holy cow, I always used filezilla on windows so i continued to on my mac, never crash never any problems. If you want to delete, right click and delete or hit the keyboard button or click the toolbar button, seriously? That being said, looks mean a lot to me any all mac people seem to use c’duck so i will try it. If they are similar except c’duck looks better, i will swap. I just though that was weird that there was so much trouble with filezilla.


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